A man has filed a $2.5 million negligence lawsuit against a New York hospital after he said his HIV diagnosis was faxed to his workplace, allegedly revealing his condition to his co-workers.
The man is known as “John Doe” in court documents and wishes to remain unnamed because he was so traumatized by the disclosure, according to the New York Daily News.
The lawsuit claims that the man, in his early 30’s, asked Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital to send his medical records to his home address or to a post office box. But only a few days later he was approached by his director of operations who handed him a complete copy of his medical records. The mail room supervisor found his confidential documents faxed to his workplace.
He says the disclosure forced him to leave his job.
“I simply could not stay with that company,” he said to New York Daily News. “I was in a constant state of apprehension about whether or not a colleague or supervisor was looking at me differently because they knew about my diagnosis. The paranoia and anxiety was too much.”
His faxed medical records included information on his HIV status, previous diagnoses for other sexually-transmitted diseases, history of physical abuse, sexual orientation information, and mental health history, according to Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman.
The hospital admitted it was “egregious” and a “breach” of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, according to the New York Daily News.
“Our client had not yet told the majority of his family and friends about his HIV diagnosis and the stress of knowing that his coworkers could know about his condition overwhelmed him,” Lichtman wrote in a blog post.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV, and many people avoid testing because of the stigma associated with HIV.
“It’s bad enough to be diagnosed with HIV, but to have his health records sent to his place of work for everyone to see compounds a very difficult situation,” Lichtman said to the New York Daily News.
It’s not the first time that St. Luke’s Hospital made the careless mistake of faxing confidential documents to a patient’s workplace instead of to their personal address. Earlier this year, the same hospital paid $387,200 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for inappropriately revealing protected health information of another patient, including the patient’s HIV status.
In August, health insurer Aetna accidentally leaked the HIV statuses of around 12,000 members, MedCityNews reports. The company sent out information via mail about ordering prescription HIV drugs, but the information was visible through the transparent window on each envelope.